The second of MacDonald's adult fiction I've read. I come to them via C S Lewis's enthusiasm for his writings.
It's been said of Lewis, as writer, teac...moreThe second of MacDonald's adult fiction I've read. I come to them via C S Lewis's enthusiasm for his writings.
It's been said of Lewis, as writer, teacher & a conversationalist, that his own love & enthusiasm for certain books & authors could be infectious & send readers & listeners away eager to read works which then proved to be disappointing to them, wondering what he saw in them.
This is partly true of my response to "Lilith". There are many weaknesses in the plot & style of this book that are very trying. Three will do as examples.
1) His treatment of innocence & goodness as characterized in the Little Ones. He shows all worst elements of the Victorian period in this area. The tweeness of his presentation these characters, the baby-talk & behaviours are equal to the most sick-making of Dickens' heroines e.g. Dora Copperfield.
2) Some terribly heavy-handed clumsy use of symbols to represent ideas made reading this like eating very doughy bread.
3) The excursions into the language of the Authorized version in conversations between Vane & Adam, Eve etc. just did not work.
However, despite these & many other short-comings there were also some wonderful aspects to his story, some really inventive fantasy & many thoughts well worth underling & remembering. (less)
I’ve rarely read a book, after reading which, the floor was strewn with so many dropped names. With chapters named “Meeting Ben” (Benjamin Britten), “...moreI’ve rarely read a book, after reading which, the floor was strewn with so many dropped names. With chapters named “Meeting Ben” (Benjamin Britten), “Imo” (Imogen Holst), “Morgan” (E. M. Forster) the book ploughed on relentlessly emphasising the connections he had made with the artistic elite & dwellers of the country house set.
There were some good points to the book. I particularly enjoyed the first chapter describing his stay in a beach bungalow as he attempted to launch a writing career, & the chapter about Staverton. Particularly the latter was written more objectively & spoke of the place itself, rather than continuing his relentless but usually inconsequential “me” centred anecdotes about his artistic & social connections.
He had a certain similarity to DeQuincey writing about the Lake Poets. He also was a man trying to add to his own kudos by emphasising his connections with those he sees as the great & the good. There was also a parallel in that, just as DeQuincey stayed with the Wordsworths at Dove Cottage & then moved in when they left, Blythe stayed with John Nash & his wife, and then moved in to their house after they had gone.
All-in-all an ok little read if you’re prepared to put up with the irritations & jarrings. (less)
A workaday narrative of Priestley's life by a journalist, which for someone who knew very little about his life or most of his work (other than "Engli...moreA workaday narrative of Priestley's life by a journalist, which for someone who knew very little about his life or most of his work (other than "English Journey", "An Inspector Calls", his wartime "Postcripts" & the odd essay or two) this made a reasonable introduction.
Cook had little to say about each of his works, other than when he produced them, a brief outline of the plot/contents & a little idea of how they were received at the time. However, this is maybe preferable to some writers of biography who write poor criticism of their subject's works, often at great length.
There were some irritating examples of bad proof reading, some occasions when speaking of a "he" or a "she" & it was not very clear to which he or she Cook was referring, & one or two occasions when inaccuracies made me wonder how reliable other facts were e.g. when comparing Priestley's sense of place to that of Dorothy Sayers, she spoke of Sayer's East Anglia & CAMBRIDGE?
But, all-in-all an enjoyable, informative quick read.(less)
With a desire to read some of O’Donoghue’s poems, I searched the public library catalogue. One book of his they had, and only one – this title. Much a...moreWith a desire to read some of O’Donoghue’s poems, I searched the public library catalogue. One book of his they had, and only one – this title. Much as I love Heaney’s poetry, this was not O’Donoghue’s poetry (or Heaney’s come to that) & the title was not vastly enticing. However, at least it would give some indication of what his writing was like, and so I ordered it without any great enthusiasm.
I do so love being drastically wrong – well it happens so very occasionally! In this case I was very drastically wrong in my first impressions of this book & its cover.
O’Donoghue combines the best qualities of a poet writing about poetry, with those of a scholar when writing about Heaney. He wrote with enthusiasm for Heaney’s work, with great insight & sensitivity, and superb balance. His focus on linguistic aspects of the poems taught me much about work I have read a number of times.
His use & assessment of other critics of Heaney was excellent, drawing from their work what was best, and giving fair representation to a breadth of views.
By the time I had got halfway through, I already had my own copy on order. Well, it is so frustrating to read a whole book of quality without being able to underline or write notes in the margins – in pencil of course.
As to O’Donoghue’s poetry I was also fortunate enough at last to find a volume of his poems in a favourite 2nd bookshop & it’s proving well worth the wait. (less)
A book worth a great deal of time & consideration.
Stephen Cherry discusses the extremely difficult subject of humility with great insight & c...moreA book worth a great deal of time & consideration.
Stephen Cherry discusses the extremely difficult subject of humility with great insight & clarity. making clear the huge gap between Uriah Heep style self-serving, under the guise of a parody of true humility: he gives a clear picture of "Passionate humility" with its many facets, as a strong & powerful force in the individuals life, & in the contributions that those individuals make to a the wider community.
Having finished the book, am poised to restart it, in order to develop some group study materials from it. Should make for very challenging discussions!(less)
Often with this kind of book of prayers/meditations there are a few of the pieces which stand out because they have depth & get to the heart of ma...moreOften with this kind of book of prayers/meditations there are a few of the pieces which stand out because they have depth & get to the heart of matters, and many that seem to slide over the surface because they grow out of the conventional language one would expect to be used in prayer.
Stephen Cherry avoids this weakness very effectively. He writes with great honesty on a variety of themes & topics, always reflecting real, complex, lived experiences. At times they are very gritty & challenging because he approaches life as it is, rather than through conventional language & formulae of faith.
Excellent read. Many other books on mountaineering reflect the author's passion for the pursuit & are admirable reads, but also very dry reads for...moreExcellent read. Many other books on mountaineering reflect the author's passion for the pursuit & are admirable reads, but also very dry reads for the non-participant - in this case a fell walker who only approaches the dangers of real climbing safely ensconced in a comfy armchair.
For once the blurbs on the book about excitement, suspense & powerful emotional content turned out to be true. I have to say that I have never wept before while reading an account of a climb, but Simpson's eventual arrival back in camp after his ordeal did move me to tears. (less)
Of Heaney's books of poems it is difficult to sift & say 'This is his best work.' I don't pretend to have the skills of a poet that should be the...moreOf Heaney's books of poems it is difficult to sift & say 'This is his best work.' I don't pretend to have the skills of a poet that should be the fundamental requirement for making such a judgement. It's much easier & more honest to stick with "This is my favourite of his work" & that's what struck me here - at least, that is, until I go back to one of his other volumes in the near future & think "No, this is my favourite!"
I first came across his poems when I was 15 in the local public library. I'd never heard of him, but the title, "Death of a Naturalist" grabbed me for no better reason than that natural history - birds & mammals in particular - were of huge interest to me. From that point of view, the poems were of limited interest, but none-the-less they took a hold of me & have kept it ever since. His are the poems that over the last 40 odd years I've probably gone back to most often & with greatest delight.
There is a saying among Quakers that "All life is sacramental." It strikes me that Heaney's poems embody this understanding of the world, not in specifically religious terms, but certainly in the sense of a depth, beauty & hope that infuses & underlies the surface history & even the smallest details of life. In the widest sense - although much of his imagery & underlying modelling is built on his Roman catholic background - he accesses & gives access to a powerfully 'spiritual' dimension of life.
Recently I've been reading for the first time some of Paul Muldoon's volumes of poems. Like Heaney he is a poet of huge skill. But I find a satisfaction that comes from reading Heaney's work is absent when reading Muldoon. While Muldoon skates across the two-dimensional surface of an ice rink with the consummate skills of the greatest of ice dancers, Heaney also skates with wonderful skills & grace across the ice, only in his case there are the depths of a lake below the ice over which he skates, and he opens a perception of those depths to the reader.
I found the whole of "Station Island" a delight to read. Within that, Part 2 spoke for me with most deeply & with the greatest resonance. (less)